The long-awaited Chilean Independence week was served on a heaping plate of meat, wine, and cueca. Every day passed about the same: asado (barbeque) for lunch, singing and dancing, asado for dinner, dancing and singing. The only variations were the asado menus. Will there be choripan (sausage hotdog) or antecucho (meat scewers), or both?!
Above, antecuchos. Below, a myriad of meats; choripanes are on the left.
Note: Laurel, Cami, and I have already claimed intellectual property rights to a Chori Stand enterprise in the US. Genius, I know.
During the celebrations, many Chileans travel with their families to the coast, namely Pichilemu, but my family stayed in Rancagua to have a quiet holiday. Quiet, I learned, is a relative term. While in Rancagua, my school turned into a dance hall and my family formed a traveling band. In both instances, meat was plentiful.
The kids performed cueca after cueca, but also some indigenous dances. There were bare-bellied gypsies from the sixth grade following an exotic Isla de Pascua rhythm and some hooded and caped third graders zooming around the dance floor like superheroes (above).
At night, I attended a few family celebrations where tíos gathered around a table of meat madness and took bites between sing-a-longs. I don’t know how it’s possible, but everyone in my host family is artistically endowed, except me.
They hoped I could carry a tune as well, but singing is not one of my redeeming qualities. Laurel and I belted out a few lines of “Quiero Ser Libre,” by La Noche , a famous Cumbia band in Chile (below), but were surprisingly not begged for an encore.
After much family fun, Laurel, Cami, and I decided to infiltrate John’s host family’s cabin in the popular beach town, Pichilemu.
There, the environment was just as patriotic with streamers falling in the streets, barbecues on the beaches, and Chilean flags bordering every driveway, but the vibe was more youthful. Folk music was traded for reggaeton and wine for piscolas.
We were in Pichilemu for less than 12 hours, but danced for 5 of those at una fonda. The Fondas are local, tented areas that sell inexpensive drinks and typical foods (you guessed it: choripanes, empanadas, and antecuchos) where the crowd expands to the horizon and pisco is the elixir of life. We didn’t leave the cabin until 2:30, we are on Chilean time mind you, so dawn broke our fall from the dance floor.
After a very late night in the name of patriotism, I thought——no prayed——Sunday would be a day of rest. Instead of calling it quits after a hard week of parties, I came home to yet another asado just kicking off on my back porch. How do they do it? Chilean stamina may evade me, but at least I can now verify the unparalleled reputation of el dieciocho de Septiembre.